It’s September, so what I like to call ‘Bikini Body Bullshit’ is about to reach a fever pitch. That time of year when every second banner on Facebook is reminding you that it’s time to start starving yourself and loathing your body in an effort to be ready for summer. Heaven forbid any of us forget what a terrible sin it is not to have a perfectly flat stomach and thigh gap when the warmer months roll around! So much will be telling us to cut out sugar, grains, dairy, meat, egg yolks, all sustenance, else we look like we actually ate over winter. If you’re like me, and you find this never-ending stream of garbage starting to get to you, it’s worth remembering that all this is actually just bullshit and that your body is pretty incredible just the way it it. At Leiden, we are calling this month Self Love September, and we are encouraging everyone to look after themselves and counter all the negative rubbish swamping our social media.
Let’s be honest, as much as we might want to, most of us spend an awful lot of time hating our bodies. I know that most of us are very aware of how prevalent negative body image is in our culture, and that most of us have probably been told that we should ignore it and be happy with our bodies. While these sort of comments are well meaning, often they gloss over a lot of the complexities that exist around negative body image. It’s pretty hard to go from hating every part of your body to loving it in one swift step just because some kind, well meaning soul told you to. And the truth is it’s not as simple as learning to love your body. I would argue that before you love anything you have to learn to not hate it and also to respect it. Body image can be such a minefield to walk through, but here are just a few ideas I found helpful when I started to change my thoughts about my body.
One of the most compelling things I learnt that has changed the way I think about my body is to separate the person that I am from the body that I am in. Who I am and what I stand for is not my body. If I think about the things that I like about myself, my kindness, my spirit of adventure, my love of learning, none of them is dependent on my body. That’s not to say that there aren’t awesome things about our bodies, but it’s important that we learn to separate our concept of who we are from what our body is.
Following on from this I had to learn how to respect my body for what it does. Whether I am loving it or hating it, my body is doing the pretty incredible job of keeping me alive. Much as I am constantly grappling with my relationship to my body, reminding myself that it is thanks to my body that I am here always serves as a good reminder to chill with the self-hate and respect the incredible opportunities that my body grants me.
Our bodies are the tools that we use to do absolutely everything that is fun or exciting or enjoyable. And I know that it does take awhile to change the way you think, but it does start to be hard to loathe your body intensely when you think about the fact that it is the only thing which allows you to dance when your favourite song comes on, to eat those deliciously cheesy pizzas and hug the people that you love. It might not always look the way society wants to convince us it’s supposed to, but damn our bodies are incredible things!
It’s not a snap change that happens overnight, but for all of us who are going to start suffering as the weight-loss industry starts ramping up their efforts to make us feel shit so that we buy the shit they’re selling, reminding ourselves of what is actually important about our bodies can help negate some of the damage these campaigns can inflict. Because honestly, who can be bothered giving up chocolate and pizza for any reason, let alone one as silly as wanting to make ourselves look different? So instead of desperately trying to get a ‘bikini body’ (which we do all already have, only thing you need to do to get one is buy a bikini, just saying), let’s think about making September the month we love our minds, bodies and souls fiercely and gracefully extend our middle fingers to the industries trying to make us hate ourselves.